New MDM Features In iOS 6 Could Benefit MSPs

New mobile device management features in Apple's iOS 6 has piqued the interest of several channel and IT executives, who say the latest update to Apple's mobile OS could help accelerate corporate demand for the company's iPhones and iPads.

A new Supervised Mode for iOS devices available through Apple Configurator will make it easy for MSPs and corporate IT departments to remotely track and manage Apple devices, said John Marshall, CEO of AirWatch, an Atlanta-based MDM developer, but channel partners need to be aware of all the policies and features to properly support the devices.

"It allows solution providers and internal enterprises to change a little bit of the DNA. You can put it in Supervised Mode and point to additional lock-down policies. For corporate line-of-business devices in retail, healthcare, bank branches, the supervisor mode using Configurator is a real advantage for the security on the device," Marshall said.

[Related: Apple's iOS 6 Delivers A Smarter Siri, New Maps App ]

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AirWatch's own solution has added new MDM functionality to iOS 6 including the ability to disable shared Photo Stream and Passbook and automatically removing profiles at a certain date. In addition, AirWatch, leveraging the new supervisor mode, can also lock down devices, force all network traffic through one global HTTP proxy, disable iMessage and prevent the installation of certificates or unmanaged configuration profiles, according to Marshall.

"The overall message is companies continue to look for a helping hand. The way MSPs started [managing iOS devices] is maybe taking an iPad and putting an asset tag and some initial configuration on it," Marshall said. "But, you're starting to see then taking some support calls. Now an MSP can build a comprehensive practice by putting it into supervised modes to assure best practices are staged on that device, and make sure from a help desk perspective."

As more companies look to support iOS devices, whether it's through BYOD or corporate-owned devices given to employees, the ability to control those devices becomes more important, Marshall said. There is ample opportunity for solution providers and managed service providers to support those initiatives around iOS, but they need to invest in training around that platform, he added.

"The number one thing that solution providers need to do is become familiar with the policies around Apple Configurator. For example, once something is under Supervised Mode in the future you have to use the same Mac to take it out of Supervised Mode or make any major changes to it," Marshall said. "I'm not sure if a lot of people think about that. There are a couple policies that will be important to MSPs to the rules of engagement around Configurator."

NEXT: Making The Case For iOS Rollouts

Kris Snyder, CEO at Vox Mobile, an Independence, Ohio-based solution provider focused in the mobile space, said more MDM features around iOS, along with additional APIs and third-party management integration solutions from companies like AirWatch offer significant opportunity for the channel.

"Right now, we're rolling out tens of thousands of mobile devices, all iOS, because [customers] absolutely believe it is easier to develop tiny apps on a regular basis for continuous improvement for their processes and procedures. It's a new agile world created by iOS," Snyder said.

A Vox Mobile customer, a major bank, is poised to rip out its legacy Blackberry base after seeing the new features of the iPhone 5 and iOS 6, Snyder said. "They were waiting for the last couple things around security. In the consulting business, this [iOS 6] will make things busy. We have a whole range of people to talk to now," Snyder said.

In addition, it's likely that many IT enterprises will look to outsource help desk resources around mobility as iOS becomes more prevalent within an organization, Snyder said. That means good things for companies like Vox Mobile, he added.

"As the range of things going on in those devices becomes more diverse, it becomes more complicated for IT [departments]. That's not likely to generate value for the organization," he said.

Over the last several years, each release of a new iPhone, iPad or iOS update has helped accelerate interest from commercial customers, Snyder said.

"Our business is event driven. The more events that happen, the more opportunities [there are] for organizations to think about what's next. Being in the managed mobility business, that's a great opportunity to have another transformational conversation," Snyder said.

Snyder hasn't seen the supervisor mode in operation, but Vox Mobile engineers are on it, he said. "Once we know it's coming, we look for companies that can include it in use cases.

While the supervisor mode within iOS 6 might spur more commercial sales, it could dampen the trend toward BYOD within organizations too. Once a phone goes into supervisor mode, it can only be taken off that mode in Apple Configurator on the same Mac in which it was turned on, said AirWatch's Marshall. With that in mind, many employees might not want their employers to have that much control over their phones. Nor will companies want to be responsible for employees' own devices, he said.

Likely, a mixture of BYOD and corporate-owned devices will exist within many organizations, depending on the use case for each employee or group of employees, said Vox Mobile's Snyder.

"One of the things we do is to take clients through the process of segmentation. You have to be prepared to provision parts of your group differently. Sometimes it's appropriate for BYOD. We haven't seen too many companies where everybody gets BYOD. That wouldn't be appropriate. For some, supervisor mode is the right choice when it wouldn't be a choice for BYOD in the first place," he said. "This helps the concept of the need to segment users to their use cases and not just globally. [Supervisor Mode] isn't necessarily going to be something right for everybody, but it's another tool and more use cases will be covered. You will continue to see people design uses around that."